This bill calls for repealing the 22nd amendment in order to let Presidents serve more than two teams, something that has been suggested by Donald Trump. Since this limit is now established in an amendment, such a change would require amending the constitution.
There were not, however, always Presidential term limits.
The extraordinary circumstances of the Great Depression and World War IIhelp explain why FDR served for so long. When a country faces national and international crises, it might lean toward keeping the same government in power for longer than usual. Still, FDR’s long tenure created unease about the possibility of presidential tyranny. In addition, Michael J. Korzi, a professor of political science at Towson University, argues that by by the end of his third term, Roosevelt’s high blood pressure and the beginnings of congestive heart failure were making him too ill to serve.
“Roosevelt’s illness would eventually see the president capable of working no more than about four hours a day,” Korzi writes for History News Network. “Many in the Washington community who regularly saw the president doubted that he would complete his fourth term.” And of course, he didn’t.
These concerns led to the 22nd Amendment, ratified on February 27, 1951, which established a two-term limit for presidents. However, it didn’t completely end the debate over term limits. In 1987, the New York Timesreported that President Ronald Reagan “‘would like to start a movement’ to repeal the constitutional amendment that limits Presidents to two terms.” If he’d succeeded, this would have allowed Reagan—then in his late 70s and a few years from an official Alzheimer’s diagnosis—to run again.
Today, with a new wave of authoritarianism taking hold in Europe and China, some observers are concerned about the future of democratic elections around the world.
Democracy. If voters want to elect someone for three terms they should be allowed to do so.
Strong leadership. Allowing an infinite number of terms encourages presidents to be good leaders and to continue to improve and innovate.
Quality presidents. Presidents learn a lot when they are in office and having a new President every 4-8 years reduces the quality of the presidency.
Strength of presidency. A President is politically weak when he has to constantly run for office.
Democracy. The democracy argument against a third term is that the existing president (the incumbent) has such a large advantage in terms of visibility and messaging that it would be difficult to defeat him or her. Modern fears of authoritarianism (see above) magnify these concerns.
Trump bad. Many people don’t Trump to have two terms (some not even one). A third term would be unconscionable to many.
How FDR’s Presidency Inspired Term Limits (2018) Other scholars point out that Washington himself never intended to establish a two-term precedent. Washington stepped away from a third term in large part because he was a reluctant president in the first place. He only accepted a second term because of political pleadings and pressure from allies such as Alexander Hamilton. By the end of his second term in 1796, Washington had grown weary of growing political partisanship and the growth of parties. According to Bruce G. Peabody, Washington never sought a third term because of these factors and his desire to signal his reluctance to extend his own political power, thereby ingratiating himself among his fellow Americans and enhancing his reputation. While historians argue that the case of limited two-terms for presidents is a weak one, the concept is now embedded in the Constitution. Changing it would require a widespread clamor for a third presidential term that is at this point, absent a national crisis and a leader of strong bipartisan popularity, difficult to envision.
ur debate topic this Sunday is whether the term limits established by the 22nd Amendment relating to the president should be repealed. It is my view that the 22nd Amendment should be repealed and that presidents be permitted to serve more than two consecutive terms in office.
Prior to discussing the merits of my argument, let’s clear up a few misconceptions. The original Constitution as drafted did not contain any term limits with regard to the president. That said, the popular view is that none other than George Washington ushered in the two-term limitation by refusing to serve a third term of office. It is widely believed that all presidents adhered to this unwritten proscription until Franklin Delano Roosevelt came along and upset the electoral applecart. In actuality, Washington’s decision not to seek a third term was based on health issues and not a concern that unlimited presidential terms would lead to a de facto king or emperor as is widely believed. The historical record makes clear than numerous presidents sought to serve more than two terms but were just unsuccessful in their efforts.
FDR was the first president to pull off a third term, winning the 1940 election and then going on to be re-elected to yet a fourth term in 1944 in the wake of World War II. Republicans led the effort to impose term limitations and successfully approved the 22nd Amendment in 1947. Republicans spearheaded this effort to curtail Democratic power and control and to bring the curtain down once and for all on FDR and his New Deal.
My opposition to many of the initiatives spearheaded by FDR is well known. That said, he got it right with respect to seeking a third and fourth term given the need for continuity of leadership in the midst of a World War. Although the electorate could have booted FDR and his gang out of office in 1940, the country opted to see out FDR’s war effort to the very end. As it turned out, that proved to be the best course of action notwithstanding FDR’s death in 1945 and the succession of Harry Truman to the top spot.
Fundamentally, I believe “the people” have the right to determine the length of time the president can serve in office. The drafters of the Constitution did not support term limits for the president and there is no such restriction in the document. Given the prophetic efforts and results as such luminaries as George Washington and Benjamin Franklin, I see no need to change course on this issue. Furthermore, the electorate should have the right to determine whether a given administration, Republic or even (alas) Democratic should be given an additional term. Such reason could be predicated on the need to effectuate legislative and policy objectives that often take more than eight years or to guide the nation through a major war or crisis. It’s up to the people to decide.
I am also not persuaded that unbridled presidential service could undermine the democratic process or even lead to the ascension of a dictator. Certainly a president with dictatorial aspirations could do so within the confines of eight years. That has never happened notwithstanding severe societal and political dislocations including the Civil War and Great Depression, among others. Moreover, I have confidence the systemic checks and balances hardwired into the Constitution would prevent such a result. If President Bill Clinton was impeached for his marital indiscretions, certainly Congress would be prepared to act should a president get a penchant for goose stepping and shutting down the legislative branch. Let’s nix the 22nd Amendment and let the people decide.
In 2009, Thomas Neale from the Congressional Research Service detailed the long debate about presidential term limits at the 1787 Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia. The delegates considered a fixed term for the chief executive among several options. Initial ideas included a three-year or seven-year term of office, limited to one term. When the delegates could not agree on a solution, the question was referred to the Committee on Postponed Matters, which included Gouverneur Morris and James Madison. The Committee devised the Electoral College and a four-year term for the President with no term limits, among other important innovations. Neale says during the state ratification process, doubts from the anti-Federalists were offset by “the near certainty that George Washington would serve as first President under the Constitution.”
These doubts about unlimited presidential terms of office did not fade away after President Washington set the unofficial two-term precedent in 1796. Scholar Stephen W. Stathis explains in a 1990 paper that Congress considered early versions of presidential term limit amendments in 1803 and 1808, and the Senate approved term-limit resolutions in 1824 and 1826, only to be rejected by the House.
The National Archives’s “Amending America” project shows that presidential term limit motions appeared in Congress over the next 140 years regularly, with the first possible amendment submitted to Congress in 1788 by Thomas Tucker. In his 1897 report to the American Historical Association, Herman V. Ames listed 125 versions of presidential term limit amendments proposed to Congress between 1788 and 1896. “These were brought out chiefly by the fear that the President would use the patronage of his office to secure his reelection,” Ames said. “A large number of the amendments did not propose to change the term of the President as fixed by the Constitution, but to limit the number of times the same person could be chosen President.”
The controversy over President Ulysses S. Grant’s potential third-term candidacy in 1876 and 1880 led to a spate of proposed term limit amendments. In 1876, the House passed a resolution that “the precedent established by Washington and other Presidents of the United States, in retiring from the Presidential office after their second term, has become by universal concurrence a part of our republican system of government.”
Eight More Years! The Case for Removing Term Limits (2012). The 22nd Amendment deprives the United States of the possibility of successful second acts. It has also made a virtue of inexperience among American presidents. The practice of having an entirely new president every four or eight years has led to flailing and mistakes during a president’s first year or two in office. That has been particularly true in foreign policy. Over the last fifty years, John Kennedy, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Obama have had rocky first years in foreign policy. Kennedy – Bay of Pigs. Reagan – Lebanon. Clinton – flailing in the former Yugoslavia and with Japan. And Obama’s initial Afghanistan policy was flawed.
End presidential term limits (2013) It’s time to put that power back where it belongs. When Ronald Reagan was serving his second term, some Republicans briefly floated the idea of removing term limits so he could run again. The effort went nowhere, but it was right on principle. Barack Obama should be allowed to stand for re election just as citizens should be allowed to vote for — or against — him. Anything less diminishes our leaders and ourselves.
The overarching question is this: Why should U.S. Presidents, if they so choose, be denied to stand for a third term? Admittedly, the prospect for that to happen isn’t very high. After all, being President of the United States must be among the world’s most thankless jobs.
The current mindset in the U.S. establishment actually runs in the opposite direction. Larry Summers, the former Treasury Secretary and Harvard President, recently opined that single terms for Presidents, of say six years, might be better. In a rare case of hemispheric harmony, the United States would thereby draw closer to the political practice Latin America, but it would do so at a time when those countries are actually moving away from term limits.
As it stands, the U.S. body politic — by not allowing a president, should he or she desire to do so, to run again — actually willfully emasculates its chief executive. Come the sixth year of a reelected president’s second term, he is automatically considered a “lame duck,” even though they are still very much vested with the pomp and ceremony that comes with the Oval Office.
That glitziness cannot mask the fact that the office of the president at that point is increasingly an emperor without clothes. What is of concern here, of course, is not so much the fate of the individual as the effect this has on the nation as a whole, as well as the U.S.’s standing in the world.
Here is a breathtaking calculation: Including the fact that it takes a successor in the White House a year to stand up his or her administration, the two-term limit means that the United States may effectively be without a President that is considered a serious negotiating partner for at least three out of every nine years.
No More Second-Term Blues (2006)
Here are the chief reasons that two terms are enough.
Eight years is long enough. Americans have never liked the idea of a permanent president or one who looked upon the job as a career. Presidents like Jefferson, Jackson, and John F. Kennedy praised the notion of rotation in office as desirable and healthy. Jefferson warned that “history shows how easily [unlimited tenure] degenerates into an inheritance.”
The presidency is an awesome position for any person, however experienced and talented, to hold. And its powers and responsibilities have become enlarged enormously in the last 50 years, and this shall doubtless continue in the next 50. The rise of the mechanisms and resources of power available to presidents such as once unimaginable nuclear weapons, covert operations, satellite intelligence systems, and a veritable “electronic throne” suggest new dangers even to those of us who want a strong presidency. The 22nd Amendment may not have been needed in 1947, but it will prove to be an invaluable additional check and balance in the future, without taking away from the effectiveness of the good presidents. It is a check against the ultimate type of corruption – the arrogance that a president is indispensable, the very inclination that motivated Ferdinand Marcos, Gen. Anastasio Somoza, Fidel Castro, the Duvaliers in Haiti, and countless other one-time friends of our country. The 22nd might, like impeachment, be needed only once a century, yet it would be there as a protection.
Eight years is ample time for a president and an administration to bring about major policy changes. If these changes have been valued and effective, they will be continued and honored by the succeeding presidents of whatever party. Further, an able and honest president need not become lame – though most presidents understandably witness a diminution of power in their last years because of normal fatigue and the reality that they have already advocated and fought for their best ideas in their first term-and-a-half. Ike’s effectiveness was not impaired in his second term because of the 22nd. Nor was Reagan a lame duck in 1986 when he won immigration, tax, and contra aid votes in Congress. (His lameness at present is mostly self-inflicted.) Note too that a “lameness” set in on many a president before the adoption of the 22nd. (Wilson, Hoover, and Harry S. Truman saw their authority erode in their last year or two.)
The two-term limit is healthy for the two-party system. It helps prevent political stagnation. The two parties benefit and are rejuvenated by the challenge at least every eight years of nurturing, recruiting, and nominating a new term of national leaders.
Most Americans reject the idea that any political leader is indispensable. We are a nation of 65 times as many people as we were in 1789. There are plenty of talented leaders. If a president of the stature of a Washington, Lincoln, or FDR were available and the nation faced exacting emergencies, their services could be retained in the role of national counselor, roving ambassador, or Cabinet member without portfolio.
Although the 22nd does somewhat diminish the choice of the voter, this restriction is likely to occur only once every 50 years, if then. Most presidents never even get a second term. Most of those who serve a second gladly retire because of deteriorating health or diminished polticial support, or a combination of the two. Note also that the voters don’t appear all that upset by this diminution of their voting privilege – 60 percent support retention of the two-term limit. Moreover, the charge that the 22nd Amendment is undemocratic is irrelevant. Ours is not a pure democracy. It is a republican government under a federal system. A republican government purposely limits the majority of voters in a number of ways and protects the minority, however small. The limits of the 22nd stand together with judicial review, age, and residency requirements to run for office, and the supermajorities needed for treaty ratification or amending the Constitution as safeguards against undesirable or excessive majoritarianism.
A number of presidential elections are scheduled to take place in Africa between now and the end of 2016, including in countries where presidential term limits are already deeply woven into the political fabric. Tanzania, Namibia, Mozambique, and Benin have upcoming elections where sitting presidents will not be on the ballot. Elsewhere in Africa, however, term limits are under threat. Changing constitutions and eliminating term limits reduces people’s confidence in their institutions, weakens overall governance, and serves only the interests of the person or party in power. In democratic systems, strong leaders abide by constitutions, step aside when their terms of office come to an end, and support free and fair elections.
Shortly after America’s independence from colonial power Great Britain, America’s first president, George Washington, set an important precedent by stepping down in 1796 after just two, four year terms in office. He did so because he believed that the new, democratic government of the United States should not be dominated by any one man.
Even though it was not required at the time by our Constitution, all of the presidents who followed George Washington throughout the 19th and into the early 20th century observed his important precedent of not serving for more than two terms. After President Franklin Roosevelt broke this tradition by being elected to four terms, the U.S. Congress approved, and a majority of states ratified, the 22nd amendment to our Constitution. This amendment limits presidents to serve for no more than two terms in office. All presidents since then have strictly abided by term limits to the great benefit of our democracy.
Respecting presidential term limits and constitutions as they are written is crucial for realizing the aspirations of an entire continen
Another argument for a single presidential term stems from the increasingly centralized global power of the White House. Over the years, the Pentagon, National Security Council and CIA have been playing a greater role in foreign policy decisions than the less-funded State Department. A more frequent rotation in the White House, with each president implementing new domestic and foreign policies, would help prevent entrenched bureaucratic interests from taking deep roots while enhancing American diplomacy.
A further “internationalist” reason for a single-term presidency would be to counter the worldwide shift toward authoritarianism, even under democratic regimes. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has been chancellor since 2005 but is finally stepping down in 2021. Benjamin Netanyahu has been reelected as Israeli prime minister since he became PM for a second time in 2009 — even though he called for term limits in 1997. President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi hopes to change the 2014 Egyptian constitution so that he can stay in office until 2034. And Vladimir Putin and Dmitry Medvedev have used loopholes in the Russian constitution to remain in power as either president or prime minister since 2000. Putin might try to stay in power beyond 2024.
If Americans show they are truly working to create a more direct system of democracy that more strictly limits the power of the executive branch while eventually seeking to limit the terms of other elected officials, the United States is more likely to obtain greater global support from those who would more willingly follow a new American model of democracy.
Democracy stems from an active base of citizens, not from the top. Changing presidential leadership after a single term, and limiting terms for other elected officials, can open the decisionmaking process to a wider spectrum of options sought by the diverse sectors of society. A single-term presidency could reduce corruption and make the executive branch more responsive to the real needs and interests of the American population, not just to special interests.
Just as it did a century ago, the U.S. Congress should propose the option of a single-term presidency of five or six years as a constitutional amendment. Democrats such as Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders, both in their late 70s, could set the stage for such an option by saying that they will not seek a second term in office. And Democrats could obtain more support from independents and #NeverTrump Republicans if they link their calls to abolish the Electoral College ― an action that would tend to give Democrats an advantage over Republicans — with demands for term limits on Congress and a single term for the president.
True, a one-term presidency won’t absolutely guarantee that the Democrats will prevent Donald Trump’s reelection. But it will ensure that America never again endures two terms of a similar presidency.
Because of term limits:
Incumbents are less able to use the state’s institutions to manipulate elections or erode the power of rival branches of government and political adversaries.
Leaders feel more pressure to deliver results and leave office with a positive legacy.
Individuals, no matter how powerful and popular, cannot become indispensable.
Political transitions are normal, regular, predictable events, so rival parties have little incentive to upset the system through coups or other means.
- A rising generation of political leaders emerges, bringing fresh ideas and possible policy changes.